Post-Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven – Antoine Volodine (Translated by J.T. Mahany)

So what is post-exoticism?


Maybe I could attempt to explain it like this. Literature is art, right? Painting is art, right? I own a very large painting (84 cm  x 170 cm) by Tjariya (Nungalka) Stanley from Ernabella (pictured). If I was to describe to you what it represents, without you seeing it, I’d have a minimal chance of explaining beyond, colours, dots, size, and materials. If I was to explain that it was the story of “the older sister going a long way to get her younger sister and bring her back” as the artist has explained, you’d still have no idea. If I spoke of Wingellina and Docker River and inma, I’d confuse you even more. But it is still art right? It still evokes emotions, takes you on a journey when being viewed, even if you do not understand the detailed imagery or even the representation of the shapes. Does the fact that Tjariya (Nungalka) Stanley was originally taught batik by Daisy Baker following her visit to Indonesia in the 1970’s add more depth to your understanding of the painting? All relevant or irrelevant?


That’s how I explain post-exoticism as a literary art form, I don’t.

What is it all about? the critic of official literature asks in a high, worried voice, because, on the back cover, there is too little information or not enough for his purposes. All the same, if he takes to time to think, he’ll see that it’s about typical things: a person’s fate, the brutality of society and history, and a weakness striking the human species like a plague? the only direction for it to go is the worst.


The above quote is taken from “Post-Exotic Novels, Nȯvelles, and Novelists: Part Two” by Antione Volodine at ‘The New Enquiry’ http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/post-exotic-novels-n%C8%AFvelles-and-novelists-part-one/so let’s delve a little further as I’m no “critic of official literature”. The back cover of “Post-Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven”, says:


As with Antione Volodine’s other works (Minor Angels, We Monks & Soldiers), Post Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven takes place in a corrupted future where a small group of radical writers – those who practice “post exoticism” – have been jailed by those in power and are slowly dying off. But before Lutz Bassmann, the last post exoticist writer, passes away, some journalists will try to pry out of him all the secrets of this powerful literary movement.

With its explanations of several key “post exoticist” ideas that appear throughout Volodine’s other books, Lesson Eleven provides a crucial entryway into one of the most ambitious literary projects of recent times: a project exploring the revolutionary power of literature.


Our book takes the form of a single 73 page paragraph interrupted with ten lessons, listing the dissidents (all Volodine pseudonyms), a listing of all of their works (343 in all, which is 7 cubed, and that is not irrelevant) and eight explanations or critiques of the works.


You make up new literary genres that don’t seen experimental at all; instead they seem viable, and like they won’t change afterward, except for in the details.


Volodine has other works of this sweeping opus available in English: Minor Angels, Writers, Naming the Jungle, We Monks and Soldiers (as Lutz Bassmann) and In the Time of the Blue Ball (as Manuela Draeger), this book featuring the last remaining post exoticist writer, Lutz Bassmann, explores the assumed writers jailed, the penal system a metaphor for the constraint of literature as we know it.


Have I repeated myself? One of the features of the movement includes a structure where some of the works are identical, just slightly different versions. A technique designed to “bring down the capitalist order and its wars”. The Shaggå, for example, “always breaks down into two distinct textual masses; one part, a series of seven sequences rigorously identical in length and tone; the other, a commentary, in which the style and dimensions are free”:


The obtained effect has implications that go beyond the aesthetic. It is in relation with the status of the reader, of the listener. The Shaggå seems to address a reader who is in close ideological and cultural connivance with the author, but it plays before a vast, unknown audience, among which unfriendly entities are dissimulated.


Am I floating in a dream and reading at the same time? Or am I reading whilst dreaming?


These suggestions always have a filigreed character, designed to connect the unconscious with the conscious.


Other styles are the Romånce:


No author forgets that readers exterior to post-exoticism, exterior to the high-security sector, sympathizers of every species, can venture into the post-exotic sphere. It is a perilous journey for them, with no chance of rescue, in the middle of obsessions and shames that none of their certainties at departure will help them to surmount. We see to it that they are welcomed into the closed world of the text and that they learn how to visit it without losing their sense of self.


So how do you review a work where yourself as the reader is complicit in the crimes of the post-exotic genre?


We all know that it is hazardous to analyse the post-exotic production with terms conceived by official literary critics, made for performing autopsies on the textual cadavers that riddle their morgues.


As a reader do you want to share with Volodine “the labyrinths, the dysfunctions, and the absurd valors, and the fears, and the dreams, and the literatures.”?


Trust me, a journey you will either adore or despise, a trip where you’ll possibly search out all the mysterious works available on the 343 “by the same author, in the same collection” listing in this book, a book where there are only ten lessons, or are there eleven? Should I explain this a little further? I could start by comparing..
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